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Lemon Pots de Crème

Scott Phillips

Servings: 8

Pot de crème may be a heavenly dessert, but it’s also convenient—you can (and should) make it the day before you plan to serve it, so when it’s time for dessert, all you have to do is pull the chilled custards out of the refrigerator and decorate them with candied zest or flowers, if you like.


  • Finely grated zest of 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice  
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved (or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract)
  • 10 large egg yolks
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish
  • Candied citrus peel or candied flowers, for garnish (optional)


  • Put a large pot of water on to boil for the water bath. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put eight 6-oz. ramekins in a large roasting pan or baking dish with high sides.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest, juice, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes; set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla seeds and pod (if you’re using vanilla extract, don’t add it yet) and bring to just below boiling. Remove from the heat.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Gently whisk a ladleful of the hot cream into the yolks and then whisk the yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the cream. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the reserved lemon syrup and strain immediately through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. If you’re using vanilla extract, stir it in now.
  • Divide the mixture among the ramekins in the roasting pan. Pull out the oven shelf, put the roasting pan on it (be sure it’s stable), and pour enough boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the ramekins with a sheet of foil (simply lay the sheet on top, don’t crimp the edges) and bake for 25 to 45 minutes—start checking early—until the custards are set about 1/4 inch in from the sides, the centers respond with a firm jiggle (not a wavelike motion) when you nudge the ramekins, and the centers of the custards register 150° to 155°F on an instant-read thermometer (the hole left by the thermometer will close up as the custards firm). Let the custards cool to room temperature in their water bath. Remove the custards from the bath, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Garnish with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and candied zest or flowers, if you like. 

Make Ahead Tips

Custards may be baked up to two days ahead and refrigerated, covered with plastic.


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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • user-5965852 | 01/10/2020

    Very Nice Dessert, a Do Again!

    Zesting four lemons is simply unnecessary, considering the fact that ultimately the zest will be used, strained, and discarded. Much easier to simply use a vegetable peeler and use the strips in the preparation of this dish, and discard the strips of lemon peel. (I expect a higher standard for Fine Cooking Magazine.)

    Because of this experience, I formulated the following Culinary Tip

    Culinary Tip

    Anytime a recipe tells you to zest a fruit, ask yourself this question, "Will the zest be ultimately consumed, or will it be used, strained, and discarded?"

    If the zest will be consumed, then continue to zest.

    However, If the zest will be used, strained, then discarded, don't waste your time zesting. Simply use a vegetable peeler to produce peeled strips, and the strips can be used in the cooking process, will be a much more efficient use of your time.

  • user-97032 | 04/22/2014

    These were delicious, and well worth the time it took. I would suggest that the publisher note when an ingredient is divided and used in several steps, because I put all the sugar in the pan with the lemon juice and grated zest. All turned out well, however, when all the ingredients were combined at the end. My guests loved this dessert after a ham dinner at Easter and thought it was a perfect ending. We all scraped our ramekins clean.

  • Canukchef | 04/11/2009

    This (and the chocolate version) are the best pot de creme I have ever had. I have actually had guests use their finger to wipe out the cup to get every bit. If you have access to Meyer lemons, using them instead of Eureka lemons (the kind you typically get at a grocery store) adds a wonderful flavor twist that is outstanding.

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